The Cardinals have been playing their best baseball of the season recently. Despite a sloppy loss to the Nationals on Thursday, they’ve won eight of their last nine games. They’ve stormed all the way back to put themselves in contention for the Wild Card and the NL Central title.
This weekend the Redbirds will open a huge series with the second place Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew is currently trailing the Cubs for first place in the NL Central by 3.5 games. The Cardinals are 1.5 games behind them in third place in the division and the Wild Card.
With September getting closer and closer, this could be a very telling series for the Cardinals division hopes and could really improve their playoff chances. If they can find a way to sweep they would have sole possession of second place and the second Wild Card spot. However, even if they can only take two out of three, they will trail Milwaukee by just a half game.
If the Brewers take all three, it will severely hurt the Redbirds chances at winning the division, but won’t completely dissolve their chance at the Wild Card. They would fall to 4.5 games back of Milwaukee, but depending on what Philadelphia does, they could still find themselves just a couple games out of that second Wild Card position.
The first game of the series, Friday night, will be a battle of rookies on the mound. Freddy Peralta will take the mound for the Brewers to face off with Jack Flaherty.
Peralta is really a true rookie, in that, this is his first year in the big leagues. Before 2018, he had only pitched as high as Double-A after being drafted in 2013. On the year he has a 5-3 record, a 4.47 ERA, 3.66 FIP and a 1.189 WHIP while striking out 74 batters over 56.1 innings.
He’s had several good starts this season and a few really bad ones. Peralta has only allowed four or more runs in three of his 11 starts. One being his last time out, against the Braves, when he allowed seven earned runs on seven hits and five walks in just three innings of work. Friday will be his first career start against St. Louis.
Flaherty has arguably been the Cardinals second best pitcher this season, behind Miles Mikolas. He has a 6-6 record with a 3.22 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 1.084 WHIP, 127 strikeouts in 103.1 innings and a WAR of 1.8 according to Baseball Reference.
Although he debuted in 2017, his rookie status is still intact through the remainder of this season. He didn’t start the season with the big league club, but after he did, he gave the team no choice but to stick with him every fifth day.
This will be Flaherty’s third start this season against the Brewers. So far, he’s had their number. In his first two starts opposite Milwaukee this year, despite two no-decisions, he’s allowed just two runs over 12 innings and has struck out 22 Brewers batters. He’ll be looking to keep that success going Friday night in hopes of picking up his first career win against Milwaukee.
The second game will feature the Brewers’ veteran offseason pick up Wade Miley and Cardinals ace, and also offseason addition, Miles Mikolas. Both starters have pitched well in their first seasons with their new clubs, though Mikolas has had more time due to Miley’s injury. This should make for a good matchup on Saturday.
Miley got a late start on his first season in the NL Central, getting his first go on May 2nd. Then, he missed two months with an injury. However, he’s put up good numbers on the season and since his return. He is 2-1 on the season with a 2.23 ERA, 4.20 FIP and 22 strikeouts over 40.1 innings in just eight starts.
This will be Miley’s first start against St. Louis in 2018, though he has plenty of experience pitching against them in his career. Over five starts against the Cards, Miley is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.
Mikolas has been one of the best pitchers in the National League and by far the best pitcher on the Cardinals’ staff. In 24 starts, he is 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 1.051 WHIP and 102 strikeouts to just 26 walks over 151.1 innings. He also leads the league in walks per nine at 1.5.
The Brewers are becoming a familiar foe for Mikolas, but not a welcomed one. He’s faced them three times already in 2018 and despite being 2-0, he’s allowed 10 runs in 18.2 innings against them. That’s good for a 4.82 ERA, his highest against any team he’s started against at least three times. For his sake and the Cardinals’, he’ll be better than those numbers on Saturday.
This NL Central series will wrap up with the weekend, on Sunday. That game will see Chase Anderson against John Gant.
Anderson is having a solid year for the Brewers at 7-7 with a 3.97 ERA. However, his FIP has not been good at 5.26, but he’s been able to keep his team in games. He also leads the league in home runs allowed at 24 in 129.1 innings. His last start wasn’t good either. Against the Braves, Anderson gave up four runs in four innings and took a no-decision.
In 2018, Anderson has started against the Cardinals two times. The first time, back on April 3rd, he allowed four runs on eight hits over four innings. The second time was on June 23rd. In that game he went five innings while surrendering just one run on two hits and striking out nine on 100 pitches. He allowed three home runs the first time and one the second, taking no-decisions in both games.
John Gant has struggled at times in 2018, but his overall body of work hasn’t been bad. In 18 games, 11 starts, he’s gone 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA, 3.75 FIP and 1.192 WHIP. He’s also walked 31 and struck out 65 over 74.2 innings. His last start came Tuesday against the Nationals when he went 5.1 innings and gave up just one run while striking out six.
Gant has pitched in two games against Milwaukee this season. He threw two innings both times, once on May 30th and the next, his next appearance, on June 21st. In the first game, he gave up one run on two hits and four walks. In the second he didn’t allow a run. Sunday will mark Gant’s second career start against the Brewers. The other came last season when he went five innings and gave up four runs.
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